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Chapter 9 The Council of the European Union
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Chapter 9 The Council of the European Union

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  1. Chapter 9The Council of the European Union Chapter by Jeffrey Lewis Cini & Pérez-Solórzano Borragán European Union Politics, 3rd edition

  2. Chapter 9 Slide 2 Lecture Plan • Overview and key features of the Council • Institutional structure • European Council • Ministers’ Councils • COREPER • Working Groups • Council Secretariat General • Changes and challenges

  3. Chapter 9 Slide 3 Overview (1) • EU Council / Council of Ministers / Council • The centre of EU decision making • Must approve all EU proposals • National ministers authorised to adopt legislation • Directs integration process • Fundamental role of European Council

  4. Chapter 9 Slide 3 Overview (2) • The “Council” • Different Council formation for each policy sector • Each formation has distinct agenda & culture • Most senior formation: GAERC • General Affairs and External Relations Council • Foreign Affairs ministers • Key features • Rotating presidency • Intergovernmental and supranational • Forum to represent national interests • Collective decision making & consensus seeking

  5. Chapter 9 Slide 5 Rotating Presidency • Key features • Rotates every six months • Powerful position for state holding Presidency • “Presidency trio” • Responsibilities include • Planning, scheduling • Council meetings, European Council, COREPER & working groups • External voice of EU

  6. Chapter 9 Slide 6 Relationship with other Institutions • Council - Commission • Provides the fundamental dynamic of integration • At times strained • e.g. “empty chair crisis” • At times successful • e.g. development of Single Market • Council – European Parliament • Increased interaction due to codecision procedure • Establishment of new intra-institutional dynamic

  7. Chapter 9 Slide 7 Structure of the Council • Conventional description • European Council • 27 Heads of state and Commission President • Ministerial level • GAERC & ECOFIN as primer inter pares • COREPER • Committee of Permanent Representatives • Working groups • This is a rough reflection of reality

  8. Chapter 9 Slide 8 European Council Summitry • Highest political authority in the EU • Created early 1970s • Formally institutionalised 1974 • Legally recognised with SEA (1986) • Key features • Motor of “history making” moments in the EU • Leaders discuss highly politically charged issues • Summits provide direction for integration • “Presidency conclusions”

  9. Chapter 9 Slide 9 Ministers’ Councils (1) • Key features • Different Council formation for different sector • Ministers commit to new legislation • Monthly meetings (approx.) • More frequent meetings for GAERC, ECOFIN and AGFISH • 1st pillar: Ministers adopt directives, regulations and declarations • 2nd and 3rd pillars: via joint action with EP • Large and busy meetings

  10. Chapter 9 Slide 10 Ministers’ Councils (2) • Decision making • Voting rare due to culture of consensus seeking • Unanimity (abstention ≠ no) • QMV- triple majority (Treaty of Nice) • QMV- double majority (Treaty of Lisbon) • Agenda • Part A (A points): no discussion, just approval required • Part B (B points): discussion required

  11. Chapter 9 Slide 11 COREPER (1) • Key features • COREPER I and COREPER II (independent) • Permanent representatives provide continuity • Prepares Ministers’ Councils • No formal decision making power (NB A points) • Weekly meetings; many confidential • Negotiates all areas of EU business • Mixture of intergovernmental and supranational

  12. Chapter 9 Slide 12 COREPER (2) • COREPER I • Deputy Permanent Representatives • Preparation of technical Councils • COREPER II • Permanent Representatives (Ambassadors) • Preparation of GAERC, and institutional and financial Councils

  13. Chapter 9 Slide 13 Working Groups • Key features • National officials and specialists • Either permanent or ad hoc groups • “Workhouse” of the Council • Site of initial negotiation of new proposal/issue • Concerned with technical (not political) detail

  14. Chapter 9 Slide 14 Council General Secretariat (CGS) • Key features • Vital administrative role, including linguistic service • Headed by Secretary General (SG) & Deputy • SG usually holds long tenure → important continuity • Includes “A grade” policy making positions • SG → High Representative of CFSP (1999) • → Increased role for DSG in COREPER II

  15. Chapter 9 Slide 15 Institutional Evolution & Challenges • Inefficient system • Created for six members, not EU27 • Larger agenda → more A points to “rubber stamp” • Democratic deficit • Confidentiality allows for effective deal brokering • But Council lacks credibility • Differentiation • Diversity of division? • Enlargement • Potential change in Council dynamic

  16. Chapter 9 Slide 16 Lecture review • Council as main decision making body • Principal institution to promote national interests • Mixture of intergovernmental & supranational • Institutional challenges → reform